Artist Q&A With Troy Brauntuch

Mary Logan Barmeyer

Troy Brauntuch’s conté-crayon-on-cotton pieces put a little lingering eeriness into otherwise mundane objects and places -- a stack of shirts, a dry cleaner’s -- that are sourced from a combination of his personal life and the public world. We caught up with him to hear about his technique, his early career at Artists Space with Cindy Sherman and Robert Longo, and the story behind the images. A solo exhibit of his work is on view at Friedrich Petzel Gallery through May. 17

Mary Logan Barmeyer: Often we hear your work referred to as an "investigation of public and private imagery" -- what does that mean?
Troy Brauntuch: Public imagery would be those pictures that are seen and available to everyone like magazines, newspapers and books. Private would be working from photographs taken by me. I collect images from the world, and of course a picture from a magazine can take on a very private narrative/meaning to me.

MLB: Tell us about your technique. Have you always used conté crayon on cotton, and why? What effect does it create? It can be a little haunting, I think -- is that the idea?
TB: My technique developed as a way to make beautiful and powerful images. This process came from working with various printing and photographic techniques early on in my career. When I use a photograph in an exhibition it always locates and comments on the canvases in the exhibition. It is a different sense of time that connects the canvases to a real place I live in and see.

MLB: Is this exhibition similar to other recent ones?
TB: It further investigates imagery I have been working with the last few years although much larger and less figurative.

MLB: How has your work changed since the Artists Space days in the early '80s with Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman? We sort of romanticize that era of art -- what were those days like?
TB: I am in the process of having a monograph book on my work published and released this fall. I think the documentation of artworks and writings in this book will answer this question best. It was an exciting time when I became friends and colleagues of Robert and Cindy and others. We lived down by the South Street Seaport, which was just a dock for ships back than. To see the Seaport now is so different as is the art world, which is so much bigger now. I lived on the 8th floor and my windows gave me a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge. I guess it was a romantic time.

MLB: You're a professor -- those are some pretty lucky art students -- has that had an impact on your work?
TB:Yes I teach at the University of Texas in Austin. I live both in Austin and NYC. I really enjoy teaching as well as living in Austin, TX. Splitting my time between both places I think gives me more to share with my students.

MLB: You've been known to make art that reflects things in your personal life. Anything personal about this exhibition you could share with us?
TB:The images in the show are from trips I have taken to Zurich, Mexico and Florida. I guess that's personal although we all can visit these places. The images of the pools are taken from my parents’ home in Florida. That place would be a bit more difficult for the public to visit. They thought I should take the vacuum cleaner out of the pool and go swimming.

Friedrich Petzel Gallery, 537 W. 22nd St., (212) 680-9467. Through May 17.

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